Written by, scripted by, and co-starring Ben Elton of Blackadder
and The Young Ones fame, Stark was a well-made,
beautifully filmed three part tv mini-series about ecological disasters,
and just how close the planet was in this mid-1990s setting to becoming
one. The novel, Ben Elton's first, had sold more than a million copies
worldwide when the BBC decided to film the story in cooperation with an
Australian company (not a bad idea, as almost all of it is set in
Australia, and all of it was filmed there).
Broadly, it's about what happens when a consortium of
businessmen, knowing the world is facing 'Total Toxic Overload', try to
take over Aboriginal land and are thwarted by Green 'freaks', a pommie
poseur, and brain-fried Vietnam-vets-turned-hippies. Ecologically sound,
politically correct, and funny. Elton worked on the script for ten months,
as long as it took to write the original novel, with producer Michael
Wearing. He felt that the mini-series has a better ending than the book.
That may be debatable, because the ending of the tv
version had a far more 'terminal' feel about it. Events start in a
business room, where Australian tycoon Sly Morgan is hired to buy a piece
of land in the desert, and is given a false pretext for that purchase.
"There's more mineral deposits in a bottle of fizzy water," is
the opinion of the Aboriginal leader, but this doesn't stop the tycoon and
his backers, a corrupt consortium of ageing businessmen, from their aim of
mining for uranium in a remote part of the outback. At least, that was the
English writer CD (Colin Dobson), the poseur, more in search of
sex than noble causes, falls in with a lovely urchin-like rebel, Rachel,
and becomes involved in the struggle to delay the coming of Armageddon.
Along the way the two pick up Zimmerman, Walter and Karen, three roaming
hippies, who bring with them the knack of expert hand-to-hand combat, the
peace and tranquillity factor, and an annoying tendency to giggle
respectively. Add to that an American reporter who is onto the story but
who has just been fired from her newspaper because it's owned by the
sinister consortium, and then fired at by gun-toting thugs because she
tries to escape their clutches, and the team is complete. But they don't
have very long to save the world.
By Episode 3 the Stark conspiracy
master-plan is in its final stages, with our would-be heroes in the
conspirators' clutches. When Sly Morgan, who has realised just how
despicable his new bosses are and has teamed up with Rachel, helps his new
ally to escape, they head not for freedom, but for the rockets that take
all the Stark people and their cronies to the 'safety' of space. From
there the button that triggers the pre-planned holocaust which will end
current civilization is to be pressed. But can Rachel and Morgan stop that
happening? The ending is a surprise, and a shock, with a simple message
following; a shot of the Earth from space, and a short voice-over warning
us to mend our ways before it's too late.
Other co-stars in this dramatic and colourful piece of
television were Derrick O'Conner, forever remembered for his role as one
of the Fox brothers, and Bill Wallis, an actor Elton would have
known for his roles in the various Blackadder serials.
Co-producer Michael Wearing was also behind Natural
Lies and the classic Edge Of Darkness. The programme's first
repeat was on BBC1 in May 1994.